By Sabrina Parsons, CEO of Palo Alto Software, @mommyceo
Aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart once said, “the most difficult thing is the decision to act; the rest is merely tenacity.” Women are challenging the existing norms, and finally seem to be making more headway in leadership in business and politics in the United States. Everywhere you look, we are in prominent positions of leadership – from technology startups in Silicon Valley, to executives at global corporations, to the Democratic nominee for President of the United States – we are here.
Starting June 14, the first-ever United State of Women Summit is bringing together top female leaders from all around the world to collaborate together and create action plans that will bring us towards a brighter future. Together, we will educate, inspire, and motivate one another towards, as Earhart said, both action and tenacity for gender equality.
Although we have a stronger place in society than ever before, we know how much more change is still needed. With one of the summit’s key topics surrounding Entrepreneurship and Innovation, I’m eager to share my own experiences and insight to assist current and aspiring entrepreneurs.
As a female CEO, I’ve had a direct impact on my company’s path in the industry. Over the course of the past nine years, the company and I have accomplished a lot, but also experienced some hurdles along the way. But they were just that – hurdles – and, we have learned from them, and broken through to be a world leader in the small business space.
It’s true that starting your own business isn’t for everyone. It takes more than just time and effort, but sacrifice, commitment, and passion. With all that I’ve seen and learned as a CEO, I can contribute my knowledge to and build up the next generation of female leaders. For women thinking about building their business, here are my top three tips:
1. The revolution in technology gives you more tools and power to run your business.
A wealth of tools and resources exist to help us build our vision. The incredible plethora of tools for start-ups and small businesses that exist and are affordable and easy to use (no developer needed) is unparalleled. Tools that used to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars a year and require heavy tech support to implement have been replaced by SaaS apps that anyone can use, and cost hundreds of dollars versus hundreds of thousands of dollars. I encourage all women to jump into these tools, and really spend time understanding how their business can be optimized and better run with the power of these new tools. You can put together a suite of tools to run sales, customer service, accounting and financial management and pay less than $1000 per month.
Although it is 2016, women still face bias in the business world. People will still assume we don’t know things, or are not for financial or tech-savvy. Our business expertise gets challenged. Our commitment gets challenged. Have a child, and then have your commitment challenged again, both as a business owner and as a mother. Challenge those bias’ by doing your homework, and using all the best of breed tools to run your business. You will benefit, and your business will be better off. You will run a better business than the average owner. You will succeed and have a better growth rate and survival rate than the average entrepreneur.
One of the reasons I launched LivePlan, the product my business sells, is because of my passion for helping entrepreneurs and making people succeed in business. I love what I do, and if I can help women be more successful, and change the statistics, hurrah!
2. Seek role models and mentors.
As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to find yourself a bit lost when you stumble upon a roadblock. First, what questions do you ask, and then, who can you turn to for answers? Look at the people in your life, or through local and professional organizations that may have had similar career paths and aspirations that can provide you with guidance and wisdom. There is strength in numbers. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and get advice. Someone who has been there and done that can give you a heads up and help you see potential problems well before they happen. Women are stereotypically thought to ask advice and help more often (think of the “ask for directions” meme). So use that stereotype to your advantage and get all the help and advice you can get.
Attend industry events to network with fellow entrepreneurs. Meet and speak to people, hear their stories. Seek out opportunities to learn and grow, and then share your own story. Don’t be quiet, don’t be shy. And don’t apologize for who you are: single, a mother, a minority, a student, a senior. Be you, be confident, and don’t apologize for anything.
3. Support each other.
Let’s do away with the notion that women will stab each other in the back, and can’t truly support each other As women we all need to stick together and help each other. We need the “new women’s club” to fight against the “old boys club.” Let’s all take an oath that we will help each other, and push each other up, not down. Let’s not give in to silly fights between working moms or stay at home moms, or corporate working women vs freelancers. If we all band together and help each other, the power of our network can make a huge difference.
Women are strong, and entrepreneurs are risk-takers. Together, it creates one fierce female. With these three actionable steps, my hope is that you are able to build a successful business and embody tenacity to pursue your aspirations. Believe in yourself and your business; I look forward to reading your story in news headlines in the near future.